Perspectives in Translation

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Bible Gateway and The Gospel Coalition have teamed up to host a discussion of English Bible translation. We have convened a team of world-class scholars representing different versions of the English Bible who will address specific passages from the Old and New Testaments and answer questions about the translation process.

We hope that by pulling back the curtain on translation, this discussion will help readers understand their Bibles more clearly and learn to love God's Word more deeply. And we pray that careful attention to Scripture will excite readers to behold God's glory as he has revealed himself to us in our own language.

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Seventh Question: When and Why Do We Update Bible Translations?

Posted in Translation Philosophy by Collin Hansen on November 29th, 2010

Because the KJV served so many Christians so well for so long, it may be confusing and even frustrating to see the number of English Bible translations proliferate in recent decades. What’s wrong with what we’ve been reading? Why not just leave well enough alone? The Committee on Bible Translation faced this question when they decided to cease publication of the NIV (1984) and TNIV (2005) in favor of the updated NIV, released online November 1. They wrote in their translators’ notes:

Since 1978, the NIV translation team has continued to meet, year after year, reviewing developments in biblical scholarship and changes in English usage—revising the translation to ensure that it continues to offer its readers an experience that mirrors that of the original audience, and periodically releasing those revisions in updated editions of the text.

The NIV translation philosophy seeks to replicate the ease with which the Bible’s first readers understood the text in their native language. So that philosophy demands frequent updates to reflect the ever-changing English language. It also requires the translators to make tough calls on how to reflect ancient idioms for modern ears. But even versions that seek greater continuity with the English translations familiar to previous generations need to make periodic updates, whether to fix minor editing errors or reflect new understanding of Greek and Hebrew. So I posed a question to scholars familiar with various versions: When and why do we update Bible translations?

Collin Hansen is the editorial director for The Gospel Coalition and co-author of A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories That Stretch and Stir.

This entry was posted by Collin Hansen and is filed under Translation Philosophy.